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Kirby: Find breast-feeding in church scandalous? Get over it

Published March 1, 2013 7:18 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Time for another serious religious question. It's an important one, but it's also R-rated. You might want to close your eyes. Here it is:

Is it appropriate for a mother to give her child Froot Loops during church services?

I don't mean because she forgot to feed the kid breakfast that morning. What if she's doing it to shut him up so everyone else can hear the sermon/talk?

Froot Loops and other quiet-promoting snacks are staples in Mormon wards. We have so many small kids in our congregations that sacrament meeting sometimes sounds like a hyena kill on the Serengeti.

Dry cereal is the preferred choice. So is anything else quietly extractable from a Ziploc bag — Cheez-Its, apple slices, small candy, etc. The idea is to calm a restless child for the sake of communal reverence.

Note: I wish my parents had thought of this. My father just used headlocks. They were cheaper, faster acting and he didn't have to worry about food allergies.

When it comes to kids eating during a church service, perspective is important. A full meal or even just a sandwich is probably not a good idea. A bucket of chicken is definitely out.

But how about just a breast? And by that I mean a real one. A woman one.

If Cheerios in church are permissible as a way of keeping a kid quiet, would a mom be equally OK sitting off to one side and quietly breast-feeding her baby during a Sunday school lesson?

Perhaps in the eyes of God (who can already see through everyone's clothes and frankly isn't impressed) she would be, but in a conservative congregation, somebody is bound to be offended.

I don't know why. When it comes to shutting a baby up, nothing (including a headlock) works better than a part of Mom. Provided that it's done with a certain amount of decorum, what's the big deal?

My guess is because it involves a certain amount of that highly inflammatory church "N" word: nudity. And you can't breast-feed without a teensy bit of that. Or so I've been told.

Then there's doctrine. Lessons on the moral importance of being modestly clothed tend to lose their effect when someone on the next row is surreptitiously undoing hers.

For some people, the question will be why a mother can't leave the room when she has to nurse her baby. For others, the real question is why she should have to.

Is this really an ecclesiastical issue, or is it an archaic cultural concern that we could all well do without? Most of the rest of the world already has.

If you find the sight of nursing mothers distractingly scandalous in church, then perhaps it's time to get over it. There's every reason to believe God doesn't care. And if he doesn't, maybe we shouldn't either.

More important, if you find the sight of a nursing mother sexually problematic, there's probably a lot more wrong with you than church could ever fix.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.